Celebrating 40 Years of Viv Kelly: A Musical Montage and Many a Memory…

Decades of dance, years of friendships, and four Bugsy Malones later, this week the Viv Kelly School of Dance and Theatre celebrated a fabulous forty years with hugs, hope and heartfelt emotion. Oh, and a spectacular line up of musical hits!

From humble beginnings in 1983 as a small dance group in Worthen, the school’s founder Viv passionately recalled her lifelong ‘need to dance’ which has emboldened generations upon generations in the joyous art of dance and theatre. For the tight knit adult dancers (strikingly adorned for the occasion in sparkly red waistcoats and bows) it was just that: rekindling a forgotten love.

Taking my seat in Shrewsbury’s intimate Blackburn Theatre, I watched years’ worth of love and support showcased in a beautiful slideshow of comments and flashback photos.

Met by whistles and cheers, the stage finally erupted with the sound of tap shoes accompanying 42nd Street. We then sat back and enjoyed a showstopping medley with numbers from the likes of Annie and Oliver to Miss Saigon and West Side Story. Lindsay Kelly, who continues to run the school ensured that we really did have ‘a good time’.

Indeed, the most glorious thing about this show, was the pure joy emanating from the stage. During the dance to Highschool Musical’s classic ‘We’re all in this together’ I was (rather emotionally) taken straight back to my ten-year-old self on stage - exhilarated and radiating pride. Amidst a frantic flurry of young dancers brandishing curlers, makeup, and hairspray, on Saturday night I met ten-year-old Beau eagerly waiting backstage to perform in her very first show. Tie askance for Madness’ Baggy Trousers that I performed several years ago, a full circle was turned.

I even spoke to the beaming dad of two daughters that grew up in Viv Kelly, who openly confessed that it made him so ‘happy and proud’ to see them having the time of their life on stage. It very much is a family affair, as mothers and sons danced together on stage; extraordinarily, the show’s co-creator Chrissie Purslow has even performed alongside all three of her sisters within Viv Kelly.

Also inspired by Viv back in the early days, Yeovil’s Octagon Theatre manager Adam reminisced backstage over lifelong friendships and fun before singing stirring songs from Fiddler on the Roof and Crazy for You. This musical montage even drew other former members from far and wide to be part of this milestone moment with the group that changed their lives. Former member Kai jumped off the train with mere minutes to spare before performing a jaunty number from Me and My Girl. Even had travelled back from Birmingham barely an hour before.  

Bursting with the warm fuzzy glow of childhood memories, every inch of me ached to be on stage with them. As poignantly put by my ex-theatre comrade Emily, no matter who you are, shape, size, age, gender- you name it- there is always a place for everyone on stage. For me, that is what Saturday night, and all Viv Kelly shows past and present will always celebrate.  

Header Image Credit: Purslow

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